Earth Day landfill tour increases environmental awareness
April 25, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany (April 25, 2012) -- Nathan Moloy, a fifth-grader at Aukamm Elementary School, helps out his parents every week by bringing the family's recycling materials to the proper bins.
Last week, Moloy and 41 other fourth- and fifth-graders from the school learned what happens to recycling materials after the garbage trucks haul them away. They toured the Wiesbaden landfill, known in German as the Deponie Dyckerhoffbruch, April 17, during a field trip in honor of Earth Day.
The landfill is as large as 210 soccer fields, and the group saw everything from recycling stations to ponds where water runs off from the landfill. The site, among other features, also includes a solar energy farm, buildings for holding waste and three waste hills.
During the two-hour tour, the children traveled around the site by bus and got out at sites that did not include big trucks or heavy machinery. They started at the recycling center, where Peter Zeisberger, a U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden agricultural engineer who helped coordinate the tour, said all Wiesbaden residents are authorized to drop off to drop off non-hazardous solid waste items such as metal, wood and electronic waste.
"We don't want to waste resources," Zeisberger said. "We want to reuse them."
Not only is recycling helpful because it does not waste materials, but it also saves money, Zeisberger said.
Gordon Adam, an environmental technician with the garrison's environmental office, also told the children about the 50-year-old landfill and answered questions.
"We now stand on 250 feet of trash," Adam said as the children stood on top of a large, grassed-over hill made of trash. Adam told them about the 700 sheep that eat grass on the hill during the summer. The sheep were not there yet because the grass must first grow taller.
Natasha Lym, 10, said she was amazed to find out that so many sheep could fit on the hill.
Most of all, however, Lym said, "I liked that (the tour) showed what happened to what we use."
Like Lym, Moloy said he thought the whole tour was interesting.
"I didn't know that old junk in many years can be turned into soil," he said.
His favorite part was seeing the large array of solar panels, Moloy said.
Zeisberger said the landfill uses the solar panels to create electricity that is sold. The landfill also includes a facility that turns gasses from the trash into electricity for sale.
Adam said landfill personnel take all the waste that is not recycled to an incinerator in Frankfurt, where it is burnt to ash. Then, the ash returns to the Wiesbaden landfill site, where it is eventually placed under a 25-foot cap of dirt. The cap keeps the trash from contaminating the water and grass at the site.
Adam made this point clear at a site near a runoff pond, which includes a trail around it. Adam stopped at four signs that answered the frequently asked questions of students who visit the landfill. German students also tour the landfill on a regular basis.
The first question was why the water in the pond, which is runoff water from the landfill, is safe for the fish and other animals in the area.
Adam explained that the water is only surface water, and that the actual trash is sealed off from the surface of the landfill.
The second question concerned why there are so many birds at the landfill. Many birds make the landfill their home because there are a lot of rodents around for them to eat, Adam said.
Thirdly, many children who had visited the landfill previously wanted to know why the grass is safe for the sheep to eat. The grass is safe because it grows on top of the 25-foot layer of earth above the trash and does not have contact with the trash, Adam said.
The fourth question concerned which types of mammals live on the landfill. There are cats, sheep, rabbits, foxes and mice, to name a few, Adam said.
Among other facts, Adam explained why recycled glass is sorted by color. Once glass is colored, the coloring cannot be removed, so it is sold according to color. If there is no market for a particular color of recycled glass, companies can mix various colors and turn it into materials such as glass fiber.
Some people think that when a truck comes to pick up sorted glass, it goes into one compartment in the truck, and therefore the pre-sorting is not worth it, Adam said, but in reality there are three compartments in the trucks and the glass remains sorted.
Moloy said one of his family jobs is to bring empty glass containers to the recycling point on his street, and he is always careful to make sure he gets the glass colors correct.
"My family recycles," Moloy said, "and I think that recycling is good for everyone."